Spain & Portugal (sample)

Tour operated by Insight Vacations

  • Duration: 21 days
  • Route: Madrid to Barcelona
  • Countries: Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar

Located on the Iberian Peninisula, Spain & Portugal are two countries that have attracted travellers and sightseers for centuries. Rich in history, culture and natural beauty the Iberian Peninsula with its 582,000 km2 (225,000 mi2) deserves more than the stock standard 10-14 day visit. This tour offers the chance to see the spectacular Costa Verde (Green Coast) in the north with its open sea on one side and beautiful mountains on the other, the vibrant Portugese cities of Lisbon and Oporto located on the Atlantic Coast, the cities of Seville and Granada rich in Arabic culture and architecture and finally the eye opening Mediterranean coast with visits to Marbella, Valencia and Barcelona. As with any tour it is impossible to see everything, but this gets close.

In pictures View

Brochure Tour download PDF

Day by day itinerary

Day 1
Airport transfers Madrid

Welcome to Spain. Included transfers operate at 09:30, 12:00 & 14:00. After a short meeting we head out for a Welcome Dinner in a local restaurant to get to know your fellow travelers and a first view of Madrid. On our way home we pass by Madrid’s beautifully illuminated fountains and boulevards to see the city sparkle at night.

  • Meals: dinner

Day 2
Madrid sightseeing

We start our day with a visit to the ancient capital of Spain, Toledo. With our local guide we visit the Cathedral, the Jewish Quarter and its main square Plaza Zocodover. After some free time we return to Madrid to see Plaza España, the Royal Palace and drive the elegant boulevards of the Paseo de la Castellana and the Gran Vía passing through Puerta del Sol to visit Plaza Mayor. The rest of the afternoon and evening is free to explore, maybe take in one of Madrid well known collection of Art Galleries such as the Prado.

  • Meals: breakfast

Day 3
Madrid, Ávila & Salamanca

Today we head north through the Guadarrama Mountains stopping first at the Valle de los Caídos (Valley of the Fallen), Franco’s memorial to those who lost their lives in the Spanish Civil War. For Lunch we head to Avila, one of the best preserved medieval towns in Spain and once home of Santa Teresa. Free time is given not only for lunch but also to view its incredible walls which were begun in the 11th century and today stretch 2.5 km (1.5 mi) being supported by 88 enormous towers. The Cathedral, which looks more like a fortress, as well as the Convento de Santa Teresa are also worth a visit. Then it’s a short drive to the University town of Salamanca where our local guide shows us the Roman Bridge, built in the 1st century, both the Old & New Cathedrals, the University, which was founded in 1218 and is the oldest in Spain, as well as Plaza Mayor, one of the finest central squares anywhere in Spain.

  • Meals: breakfast, dinner

Day 4
Salamanca, Burgos & San Sebastián

First stop today is the city of Burgos, the final resting place of “El Cid”. Free time is given to visit the Cathedral, Spain’s third largest which is coming up to its 800th birthday, Saint Maria’s Arch, Plaza Mayor and Casa del Cordón. After time for lunch we head off to San Sebastián and the beautiful Basque Country. Tonight we visit a typical restaurant to try local Basque dishes prepared the Basque way all washed down with a little local wine.

  • Meals: breakfast, dinner

Day 5
San Sebastián sightseeing

We head first to Monte Igueldo to admire the incredible views overlooking San Sebastián, the bay and Santa Clara Island. Next stop is the Parte Viejo (Old Town) where our guide will show us Constitution Square where once the city’s bullfights use to take place, Santa María Basílica, Sarriegi Square its then on to the Old Port and the Town Hall. To finish off our sightseeing we visit a local Cider House for a tasting. The rest of the afternoon and evening is free, a chance for you try local dishes such as squid, hake and sardines or the try the local “Chacolí” wine.

  • Meals: breakfast

Day 6
San Sebastián, Santillana del Mar & Gijón

Leaving San Sebastián we head along the Cantabrian Coast, first a short photo stop in Bilbao to view the Guggenheim Museum then we head to Santillana del Mar. Appearing like a film set this medieval village is a jewel with its cobbled streets and stone buildings. We will then have free time to visit the village to see the “Torre de Merino” (Merino Tower), Ramón Pelayo Square, and the 12th century Collegiate Church. After time for lunch we pass Llanes which marks the beginning of the “Costa Verde” (Green Coast), one of the most beautiful in Spain with its sea on one side and wooded inland backed by beautiful mountains on the other, to the port city of Gijón for a short orientation then time to explore its port or beaches.

  • Meals: breakfast, dinner

Day 7
Gijón, A Coruña & Santiago de Compostela

Today we continue along the Green Coast with its incredible views before heading for the Galician city of A Coruña. With such a rich maritime history, the Spanish Armada with its fleet of 130 men-of-war sailed from here to defeat by the English in 1588, its no surprise that the town is built around it’s harbor. We start with a visit to the Hercules Tower (the Lighthouse), built in 2nd century and the oldest functioning lighthouse in the world, before going to the Old Town with its narrow cobbled streets and peaceful squares. Plazuela de Santa Bárbara is worth a visit as well as the Church of Saint James, the oldest church in the city with its timber roof. Plaza Maria Pita with its many terrace cafés and the city’s flamboyant Town Hall is another place to kick up your feet. Next is the short drive to the pilgrimage town of Santiago de Compostela where we spend out next 2 nights.

  • Meals: breakfast, dinner

Day 8
Santiago de Compostela sightseeing

Today is our chance to visit one of the most famous pilgrimage sites in Europe. We start off with a visit to the Cathedral with the Apostle St. James buried in the crypt along with his two disciples St Theodore & St. Athanasius. We enter passing the Obradoiro façade and the Doorway of Glory, built in the late 12th century to admire High Altar behind which pilgrims climb the stairs to kiss the saint’s mantle. Obradoiro square is next along with the Town Hall, College of San Jerómino, the Hostal and finally a trip to the “Barrio Alto” (Old Town) with its maze of narrow streets. The rest of the day is at leisure to absorb this most incredible of city’s perhaps try local dishes like “pulpo a la Gallega” (Galician Octopus).

  • Where are you going? view map
  • Meals: breakfast

Day 9
Santiago de Compostela & Oporto

Leaving Spain we head for Oporto, Portugal’s second largest city as well as the one that give Portugal its name. With our guide we visit the Ribeira District with its riverfront promenade with its spectacular views of Dom Luís I Bridge. We visit the Church of St. Francis built in the 14th century with its altars covered in almost 100kg (220lb) of gold leaf. Its then off to the Stock Exchange to for a visit with Oporto’s past and present money men. Inside we see the Arabian Hall, with its impressive Moorish designs many of them guilded in gold leaf. We then cross to the river to visit the Vila Nova de Gaia Wine Stores with its riverside promenade lined with barcos rabelos, flat bottom boats designed to carry wine down the Duoro river. Here we visit and then sample one Portugal’s most famous exports, Port Wine. Tonight we eat in a local restaurant to try all the flavors of Northern Portugal.

  • Meals: breakfast, dinner

Day 10
Oporto, Obidos & Lisbon

This morning is free to wander and explore the backstreets of Oporto, a chance to test your photographic skills one its multi-coloured riverside houses or just sample some of the local pastries for morning tea. We then head to the town of Obidos with its mighty walls, beautiful cobbled streets and whitewashed houses. The afternoon will be free to maybe walk the city walls for impressive, if not nail-biting, views of the city. There is also the 13th century castle converted firstly in a palace and now a pousada (up-market inn) or perhaps head down to take photos of the 16th century, 3km (1.8mi) aquaduct. Its then a short drive to Lisbon and the mighty Tejo river. Tonight we head out for a traditional dinner at a restaurant on the banks of the Tejo river.

  • Meals: breakfast, dinner

Day 11
Lisbon sightseeing

This morning we head to the village of Sintra to visit the once Summer Palace of the Portuguese Royal Family. Afterwards it is off to the small fishing village Cascais along the Atlantic coast passing exclusive resorts such as Estoril, the setting for James Bonds “Casino Royal”. We then return to Lisbon to continue our tour visiting the Jeronimo Monastery, the Belem Quarter with its Belem Tower as well as the Monument to the Discoveries. We then drive the Liberty Avenue to see Lisbons most beautiful square, Praça Rossio. The rest of the afternoon and evening is free to maybe explore the Alfama district or head up to Bairro Alto for spectacular view over the city.

  • Where are you going? view map
  • Meals: breakfast

Day 12
Lisbon, Algarve & Seville

We say “adeus” to Portugal today but not before we visit one of its most iconic regions, the Algarve. Taking its name from “Al-Gharb”, the Arabic word for west, it is today home of Portugal’s most well known resorts. We stop for lunch and time to gaze out onto the Atlantic Ocean and admire its magnificent beaches. We then cross back into Spain and onto the capital of Andalucía and home of “Carmen”, Seville. Andalucía is renowned for its food, so tonight we head out to experience some local specialties. Afterwards we experience a show of Spain’s most famous dance, Flamenco.

  • Where are you going? view map
  • Meals: breakfast, dinner

Day 13
Seville sightseeing

Today with our local guide we head off to the Barrio de Santa Cruz. This once home to Seville’s Jewish population, “Juderia”, is today is a postcard photo around every corner. Next we visit the Cathedral, one of Spain’s grandest and today the final resting place of Christopher Columbus. After our tour of the cathedral we then stop for photos of thfe Giralda Tower, the Alcazar as well as the Indies Archives. We then climb aboard for our horse and carriage ride through the Maria Luisa Park, built for the Ibero-American Fair of 1929, to visit what many consider the finest square in Spain, Plaza de España. The rest of the afternoon and evening is yours to simply wander and take in one of Spain’s most impressive cities.

  • Where are you going? view map
  • Meals: breakfast

Day 14
Seville, Gibraltar & Marbella

The sun awaits us today on the aptly named “Costa del Sol”. Heading south down towards Jerez de la Frontera, Spain’s sherry capital, we arrive at Gibraltar locally known as “the Rock”. After passing through passport formalities we visit this most unique of British Colonies where Spanish and English meet and over time have fused together. We visit St. Michael’s Cave as well as the Barbary Apes, Europe’s only wild primates, and guardians of the colony. It’s then off to Marbella, the Costa del Sols glitziest resort, overlooked by the dramatic Sierra Blanca. Tonight we head off for a true Mediterranean dinner in our restaurant located near the sea.

  • Meals: breakfast, dinner

Day 15
Marbella at Leisure

The entire day and evening is yours at leisure and with a hotel located near the beach the whole day is set aside to do as you please. Puerto Banus, The Costa del Sols most exclusive marina is nearby and worth a visit for those who want to mix with the jet setters of this world and admire its collection a multi-million dollar boats. For those interested we will be making a trip the Old Quarter of Marbella to see its white-walled houses and narrow streets which converge on the pretty Plaza de los Naranjos which is the heart of the old town and over looked by the Town Hall.

  • Meals: breakfast

Day 16
Marbella, Mijas & Granada

We leave the sea behind to visit one of the true gems of the Iberian Peninsula, the city of Granada. On route we stop at Mijas, perched up in the hills overlooking the Costa del Sol. Littered with pretty white houses decorated with iron grills this town sitting 450m above sea level has become a centre for Andalusian arts and crafts ranging from pottery, basket work and woven goods. After time to explore and for lunch, we head off for Granada. On arrival we meet our local guide who takes us on stroll through the Albacin Quarter, the oldest Moorish settlement in Granada, finishing at the Cathedral where we see the tombs of Isabella & Ferdinand victors in the 1492 Battle of Granada.

  • Meals: breakfast, dinner

Day 17
Granada & Valencia

This morning is dedicated to the Alhambra, the Calat Alhambra (Red Palace) would have to be one of the most remarkable fortresses ever built standing atop of a wooded hill with incredible views of the city below. With a local guide our visit includes the Nasrid Palace with its Lions Courtyard and Hall of Ambassadors, the Emperor Charles V’s Palace and the Generalife. We then leave Granada to head off along the Costa Blanca whose long beaches and turquoise waters attract foreigners and locals alike 12 months of the year. Heading past Alicante and Benidorm, the end of our day sees us arrive in the beautiful coastal city of Valencia, Spain’s 3rd largest city.

  • Meals: breakfast, dinner

Day 18
Valencia sightseeing

With a local guide we start with a panoramic tour of the city including Calatrava’s City of Arts & Sciences, the Fine Arts Museum, Torres de Serrano, Torres de Quart. We then continue with a walking tour through the old town to see the Plaza de la Virgen, Cathedral with its claim of having the “Holy Grail”, the chalice from which Christ sipped during the last supper and the Palau de la Generalitat. The rest of the day and evening is at leisure to perhaps try Valencia’s most famous dish, Paella.

  • Meals: breakfast

Day 19
Valencia, Peñíscola & Barcelona

Heading north we follow the Costa del Azahar, “the Orange Blossom Coast”, with its coastal plain a sea of orange groves whose scented flowers give the area it’s name. On route we stop at the picturesque town of Peñiscola, sitting on a rocky peninsula under its 14th century castle built by the Templar Knights. After some free time we head of to Barcelona, a city dominated by the works of Antonio Gaudí. This afternoon we visit Gaudí’s Guell Park where visitors get the impression they are entering an enchanted forest with its mushroomed shaped pavilions and mosaic dragon. Afterwards it’s a local restaurant to try a Catalan buffet washed down with some local wines. Our trip home shows us the Magic Fountains an incredible sound and light show performed with the old Royal Palace as its backdrop.

  • Meals: breakfast, dinner

Day 20
Barcelona sightseeing

We first head off to Gaudi’s masterpiece “Sagrada Familia”, with its famed Nativity Façade to admire one of the finest pieces of Modernist architecture in Europe. Then it’s off to Montjuic to see the Stadium built for the 1992 Olympics and to admire incredible views over the city, port and sea. We then continue to see the Casa Milà, Casa Pedrera and Casa Batlló all of which decorate the Passeig de Gràcia, Barcelona’s most elegant street. We finish with stroll through the Gothic Quarter, to admire its Cathedral and the lively Rambla, the city’s most well known pedestrian promenade. The rest of the day is at leisure to take in this most vibrant of cities or perhaps a visit to the Camp Nou the home of Football Club Barcelona. Tonight we head out for a farewell dinner to say goodbye to new friends.

  • Where are you going? view map
  • Meals: breakfast, dinner

Day 21
Airport transfers Barcelona

Your tour ends after breakfast. Airport transfers will operate to arrive at Barcelona Airport for 07:00, 09:00 & 11:00.

  • Where are you going? view map
  • Meals: breakfast

From the man in the front seat

I designed this tour focusing around four main points;

  1. The opportunity to see as much of the Iberian Peninsula as possible including the much missed north.
  2. Spain and Portugal are rich and varied when it comes to food and drink, so I have tried to include as many local specialities as is possible, e.g. cider tasting in San Sebastián, Port in Oporto and Paella in Valencia name a few. Instead of packing the itinerary full of meals of average standard, I decided to provide a few less dinners but of a much better quality. I have also made sure, like the other tours I have organised, that all meals include at least two drinks.
  3. Longer tours need down time. This could be anything from relaxing in the hotel, getting lost in back streets or trying any beer, wine or food known to man. This tour includes several (on average 1 every 3 days) “at leisure“ afternoons which give you the chance to do whatever you want, nothing planned and nothing booked. No English speaking Tour Operators offer a tour like this, comprehensive enough for the avid fan of Spain & Portugal whilst being relaxing and enjoyable enough for the curious.
  4. Semana Santa, the Holy Week, in Seville hosts one of the most impressive, and important, celebrations anywhere in Spain. All week, but particularly on Good Friday, your free day, processions move through out the city heading to the cathedral with floats containing lifelike wooden sculptures of scenes in the passion of Christ. An incredible spectacle that you will experience. (If you want a preview google “Semana Santa, Sevilla” and take a look at the images).

What do I get for my money?

With regards to what is included I would like to highlight a few points. Firstly; there is no optional package or extras when the tour starts, any sightseeing or restaurants which I think should be visited are included in the package. In theory your free time should be exactly that, free. Secondly; I purposely steered away from including all meals as truly think that people need time to do their own thing, sometimes the best restaurant, café or museum is the one you found that’s not mentioned in any guide book or internet site. In saying that, I have made the included meals very good by using many local restaurants rather than hotel restaurants and including two drinks per person. Thirdly; even though I have the utmost confidence in the staff and agencies I have chosen, I have not included tips for the Tour Driver or Local Guides on purpose as I strongly believe that they should be performance orientated, i.e. deserved. And lastly; I wanted to make this as transparent as possible so at the end I have made a list of things that are not included to help in your budgeting.

Bradley W. Dick – Tour Director

Tour highlights

Premium Highlights (included paid entrances)

  • Toledo – guided visit through the cathedral
  • Valley of the Fallen – guided visit to the memorial dedicated to all of those who died in the Spanish Civil War
  • San Sebastian – cider tasting
  • Santiago de Compostela – guided visited to the Cathedral of the Apostle
  • Oporto – Wine tasting, guided visits to Church of St. Francis and the Stock Exchange
  • Lisbon – guided visits to Summer Palace in Sintra, the tomb of Vasco de Gama and the San Jeronimo Monastery
  • Seville – guided visit to the tomb of Christopher Columbus and Seville Cathedral, horse & carriage ride
  • Gibraltar – visit the Barbary Apes and St. Michaels Cave
  • Granada – guided visits to the Alhambra Palace, Generalife and the Royal Chapel
  • Barcelona – guided visit to Antonio Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia

Additional Highlights

  • Madrid – see the Royal Palace and Plaza España on your guided tour
  • Avila – see the mighty walls of Avila
  • Salamanca – see the Roman Bridge, University buildings and Plaza Mayor on your guided tour
  • Burgos – time to wander the old town and see the tomb of El Cid
  • San Sebastian – enjoy the views from Monte Igueldo for incredible views over the city and the Old Town on your guided tour
  • Bilbao – see the Guggenhiem Museum
  • Santillana del Mar – see the Merino tower and Ramón Pelayo Square
  • A Coruña – see Hercules Tower
  • Santiago de Compostela – see Obradoiro square, and the Town Hall on your guided tour
  • Oporto – visit the Ribeira District with views of the Dom Luis I Bridge on your guided tour
  • Obidos – wander cobbled streets of Obidos and view its mighty walls
  • Lisbon – see Plaza Rossio, Monument to the Discoveries, and Belem Tower on your guided tour
  • Seville – see the Bull Ring, Santa Cruz District and the Giralda Tower on your guided tour
  • Mijas – admire the spectacular views from the old town
  • Granada – walk the Albacin district on your guided tour
  • Valencia – see the City of Arts & Sciences and the Serrano Tower on your guided tour
  • Peñiscola – see the castle with its magnificent views of the Mediterranean
  • Barcelona – drive Passeig de Gracia and see the Gothic Quarter on your guided tour

Premium Hotels

  • 4 – 5 star hotels situated in desirable locations

Quality Dining

  • 20 full buffet breakfast
  • 13 three-course dinners with included drinks (min2) plus tea and coffee
  • Most dinners located in local restaurants to capture the evening atmosphere of each of the cities visited


  • Professional Tour Director
  • Headsets for all guided visits
  • Luxury 40 seater coach with air-conditioning on board washroom and extended leg room
  • All hotel service charges taxes
  • Porterage at all hotels
  • Airport transfers where indicated


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