Take a comprehensive tour of Spain and discover its fascinating history, art and traditions. The tour begins by exploring Granada, Cordoba and Sevilla – great medieval cities whose cosmopolitanism is preserved in their Moorish architecture – and then travels forward in time to Madrid, capital of a unified Spain whose impressive palaces and museums reflect the power of an empire that once spanned the Atlantic. The tour concludes with three days in exuberant Barcelona, home to Spain’s finest modernist art and architecture. The tour also showcases the outstanding culinary traditions of each region.
The 13th-century Alhambra in Granada, a complex of palaces and water gardens
Cordoba’s renowned Mesquita (mosque), a blend of Visigothic and Islamic art
Visiting the mighty cathedral and wandering the lanes of Sevilla, the city of Carmen and Don Juan
The art collections of the Prado and Thyssen-Bornemisza museums in Madrid
Philip II’s monastery-palace of El Escorial, the epitome of Spanish imperial power
Segovia’s ancient Roman aqueduct, proudly dominating this historic town
Antoni Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, in the context of his other works
Days 1–3: Discover Granada, from the Alhambra to the lime-washed alleyways of the Albaicin and Flemish art in the magnificent cathedral.
Days 4–6: In Cordoba, explore the Mesquita and Moorish sophistication at Medina Azahara.
Days 7–9: Three nights in Sevilla. Visit the Alcazar, dazzling seat of the Christian kings, and relax in atmospheric plazas.
Days 10–13: In Madrid, tour the Prado and Thyssen-Bornemisza, Philip II’s El Escorial and Segovia’s Roman acqueduct.
Days 14–17: Travel to Barcelona, centre of Catalonian art and culture, from the Romanesque at MNAC to Gaudi’s flourishing Modernisme.
The tour begins at our hotel in Granada and ends at our hotel in Barcelona. Emirates and Qatar Airways offer the best connections in and out of Barcelona from most Australian cities. A connecting Vueling flight is required from Barcelona to Granada to begin the tour, which will coincide with airporthotel transfers. Contact us for quotes and bookings.
Included meals are shown with the symbols B, L and D.
Sunday April 17: Granada
Flights arrive into Granada in the early evening. The city of Granada enjoys a lovely setting on a fertile plain overlooked by the Sierra Nevada and there is much to enjoy in the city, which reflects a rich and diverse history in its vibrant mix of Spanish and Arabic culture. After time to check in and freshen up, we meet for a light dinner in our hotel before having an early night, in anticipation of a full day’s activities tomorrow. Overnight Granada (D)
Monday April 18: Granada
Our walking tour this morning takes us from the Church of San Nicolás, overlooking the Alhambra, down through the Albaicín. The Moors retreated to the Albaicín to live after the reconquista and it remains Spain’s largest and most characteristic surviving Moorish barrio, or neighbourhood. We also visit the 11th-century Arab baths, among the best preserved in Spain, and then after a break for lunch, explore the Cathedral and Royal Chapel, a flamboyant late gothic building containing the mausoleums of the early Catholic monarchs. This evening we enjoy a wine tasting with tapas at a local cellar door. Overnight Granada (B, Tapas)
Tuesday April 19: The Alhambra
After a talk in our hotel we make our way to the Alhambra, palace fortress of the Nasrid sultans, rulers of the last Spanish Moorish kingdoms. Our guided tour will take us through the beautiful 14th-century Palacio Nazaries as well as the later Renaissance palace, built for Charles V within the walls of the citadel. We also visit the Alcazaba, the earliest part of the fortress around which the Palacio was built, before making our way to the Generalife, the summer palace of the Sultans with its series of patios, enclosed gardens and waterways. After a break for lunch there is time to relax and enjoy this exceptional site. Tonight, we dine in a renowned restaurant a short walk from the hotel. Overnight Granada (B, D)
Wednesday April 20: Úbeda
Departing Granada, we make our way to Úbeda. This elegant town flourished in the 16th century and still displays a rich heritage of Renaissance palaces, churches and fine squares. We enjoy lunch in a local restaurant before heading on to Córdoba. After checking into our hotel, the evening is at leisure. Overnight Córdoba (B, L)
Thursday April 21: The mezquita
Córdoba was the largest city in Roman Spain but its period of greatest glory was under the caliphate of the Moors. It is from this period that the beautiful mezquita dates. Begun around 780 on the site of an old Visigothic church, the mosque is the grandest and most beautiful ever built by the Moors in Spain. Our walking tour today takes us through the historic centre of Córdoba, including the mosque. We also stop at the synagogue, one of only three in Spain that survived the Jewish expulsion of 1492. There is free time in the afternoon to discover the flower-laden patios of the Palacio Viana, or other local residences. We meet in the early evening for a talk in the hotel. Dinner tonight is in a local restaurant. Overnight Córdoba (B, D)
Friday April 22: Córdoba
This morning we visit the beautiful 14th-century Alcázar palace and gardens before continuing to Córdoba’s fine Archaeological Museum, whose collection of pre-historic Iberian, Visigothic, Roman and Muslim objects is housed in a small Renaissance villa not far from the hotel. In the afternoon we head out northwest of the city to Medina Azahara, the site of a once-sumptuous palatine city built by caliph Abd al-Rahman III in the 10th century. At its peak the site extended over three terraces, and in addition to the palace buildings included a zoo, an aviary, numerous baths and a weapons factory. Sacked by Berber invaders in 1010 and then abandoned, excavations only began on the site in 1910. Today we can see parts of the palace and mosque and a section of reconstructed gardens and visit the world-class and award-winning museum. Returning to Córdoba the evening is at leisure. Overnight Córdoba (B)
Saturday April 23: The Road to Seville
We depart Córdoba for Seville this morning, stopping en route at an olive oil production centre for a short tour of the Hacienda, the factory and a tasting, followed by a light lunch. We then proceed to Seville for check-in. There is free time in the afternoon to orient yourself in this beautiful city: we suggest a visit to the highly regarded Bellas Artes museum, or the Casa de Pilatos, considered the prototype of the Andalusian Palace. Tonight we have dinner in a local restaurant. Overnight Seville (B,L,D)
Sunday April 24: The Alcazar and Barrio de Santa Cruz
Vibrant and theatrical Seville, the city of Carmen, Don Juan and Figaro, is regarded as the quintessential Andalusian city. We begin our exploration with a visit to the Real Alcázar, dating from the 12th to 14th centuries. The Alcázar is an excellent example of pure Mudéjar style, a symbiosis of Christian and Islamic influences. Our visit also includes the lovely Moorish gardens of the palace. The afternoon is free to explore the nearby Barrio de Santa Cruz, the former Jewish quarter where shops, museums and cafes are interspersed with whitewashed houses along the cobbled streets. Tonight, schedules permitting, we will attend a flamenco performance in an intimate and authentic setting. Overnight Seville (B)
Monday April 25: Seville
After a talk in our hotel we make our way to Seville’s magnificent cathedral, the largest Gothic church in the world. Work commenced on the cathedral in 1402 and was completed in just over a century – a monumental achievement. Our visit includes the Chancel, Royal Chapel and treasury, with significant works by Murillo and others. Little remains of the original 12th century mosque on the site, apart from the Patio de los Naranjos – the traditional ablutions area for the mosque – and the 12th-century Giralda, a beautiful 98-metre-high minaret whose summit offers excellent views. The afternoon is at leisure, perhaps to explore the Hospital de la Caridad, established in 1676 by Don Miguel de Mañara, a repentant rake who was reputedly the inspiration for Byron’s Don Juan. Don Miguel commissioned a number of paintings for the Hospital from some of the great Sevillian artists. Overnight Seville (B)
Tuesday April 26: Madrid
We depart Seville this morning, taking one of Spain’s high-speed AVE trains to Madrid – a journey of 2.5 hours. On arrival we transfer to our hotel, check in and have a light lunch before making our way to the Prado, one of the world’s premier art galleries. First opened to the public in 1819, the museum’s extensive collection includes, of course, an exceptional collection of Spanish paintings, established by Ferdinand VII from the Habsburg and Bourbon vaults and augmented over the centuries through careful acquisition. These works include masterpieces by artists such as Velasquez, Goya and El Greco. We take a tour of key works in the collection, after which there is time for an independent visit. Dinner tonight is in our hotel. Overnight Madrid (B, L, D)
Wednesday April 27: Madrid at leisure
Today is free for you to explore Madrid at your own pace or to head to Toledo on an easy day trip. The newly reopened archaeological museum in Madrid is a highly recommended activity. Your tour leader will be happy to help with suggestions. Overnight Madrid (B)
Thursday April 28: A wealth of art
After a talk in our hotel, our focus is on two more of Madrid’s great art galleries: the Reina Sofía, an outstanding museum of contemporary art whose permanent collection includes works by Juan Gris, Joan Miró, Salvador Dalí and Pablo Picasso. Picasso’s Guernica, painted in response to atrocities committed during the Spanish Civil War, is one of the museum’s most famous pieces and is complemented by a series of preliminary drawings which show how the major work was developed. After lunch we visit the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, an exceptional private collection with over 800 works dating from the 13th century to the present day. Partially acquired by the state in 1993 from Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza (and the deal is continually renegotiated), the collection includes magnificent works by Raphael, Titian, the Impressionists and many other artists. Overnight Madrid (B)
Friday April 29: Royal power
Our full-day excursion takes us out of Madrid to the monastery of San Lorenzo del Escorial. Commissioned by Phillip II to commemorate the defeat of the French at St Quentin, this vast structure of over 4,000 rooms (with 1,200 doors and 2,600 windows) was both monastery and austere royal residence. Our tour takes us through the monastery, royal apartments, basilica and library as well as the mausoleum, the final resting place of almost all Spanish monarchs since Charles V was interred in 1558. After a break for lunch we make our way to Segovia, beautifully sited on a rocky ridge above the Castilian plain with an impressive Roman aqueduct at its heart. We enjoy a walking tour of the centre before making our way up to the cathedral and past the extraordinary Alcazar, a beautiful turreted fantasy which reputedly inspired Walt Disney. Returning to Madrid the evening is at leisure. Overnight Madrid (B)
Saturday April 30: Barcelona
We depart Madrid for Barcelona this morning, again taking the AVE train which enables us to travel the 600 kilometres to Barcelona in around three hours. On arrival, we transfer to our hotel and have time to freshen up before taking an orientation walk around the centre of the city – the Gothic Quarter, Rambla and colourful Boquería market. In the evening, we head out to dinner in a local restaurant. Overnight Barcelona (B, D)
Sunday May 1: Catalunya
After a talk in our hotel we transfer to Montjuïc where we visit the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC), whose extraordinary collection includes Catalunyan and modern art. After our visit, you may like to spend longer in the MNAC or make your way to the Fundació Joan Miró (prior reservation recommended). The afternoon is mainly at leisure but this evening, after a talk about Gaudí, and schedules permitting, we attend a performance in an icon of modern architecture in Barcelona, the Palau de la Música Catalana. Designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner and completed in 1908, this UNESCO World Heritage site is seen today as the epitome of the Catalan modernist architectural style – an exuberant mix of tiled mosaic decoration, stained glass and mural. Overnight Barcelona (B)
Monday May 2: Modernism in Barcelona
Today we undertake a circuit of Modernist sites around the city. We start with the Casa Vicens, a summer house Gaudí was commissioned to build for the wealthy stockbroker Manel Vicens i Montaner in 1883. This was a building which was among the first to launch the Modernisme movement in Catalonia. We then move from his first masterpiece to his last, and a very different structure; the famed Sagrada Familia basilica. This edifice became his life’s work and is now near completion after over a century. In the afternoon, we visit the fascinating Hospital de Sant Pau, designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner. This was once a functioning hospital but is now restored as a museum and cultural centre. We meet up again tonight for a farewell paella dinner on the beachfront. Overnight Barcelona (B, D)
Tuesday May 3: Departure
Our tour concludes today. If you are departing Spain today we can organize a transfer to the airport. Keep in mind that the cost of airport transfers is included for all passengers booking their international flights and additional accommodation through Academy Travel. (B)
A practicing artist and expert on the art of Spain, with degrees from the University of Sydney and the National Art School.
Elena Ortega has a Master of Fine Art (Painting) from the National Art School where she also completed her Bachelor of Fine Art. She has won numerous academic prizes for her study in art history and theory, including a scholarship to the Royal College of Art in London.
Elena is a practicing artist and also a host at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, where she enjoys sharing her enthusiasm about art. She has taught Spanish language, culture and society at the University of Sydney, UTS and UNSW, as well as WEA and Instituto Cervantes. She lived in Granada for a number of years and loves this region, immortalised by Ernest Hemingway and Gerald Brenan, but she has also spent time living in Madrid and Barcelona – as well as her native Zaragoza, of course!
Unless otherwise stated in the itinerary, our tours include the following:
Any flights mentioned in the itinerary that take place during a tour
Land travel by private air-conditioned coach. Where appropriate, taxis or public transport are also used for short distance travel on some tours
All accommodation in hotels or apartments as stated in the itinerary
Breakfasts, lunches and dinners specifically stated as included in the itinerary
Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included
Background talks on tour, site notes and online resources
Services of tour leader throughout tour
All entrance fees to sites mentioned in the itinerary
Local guides at some sites
Tips for drivers, local guides and restaurants for included meals
Costs involved in obtaining visas for countries visited, where required and when stated as included
Tours begin either at the arrival airport or the first hotel, depending on the itinerary. If you have booked your international flights with Academy Travel and arrive before the tour commences, we will provide airport to hotel transfers to the closest main city on your arrival, and to the closest airport at the end of the tour. These may be either individual or group transfers.
What is not included in the tour price?
Our tours do not include the following:
Return international/domestic air travel unless those flights take place during the tour
Special taxes and airport levies that can only be paid in cash at the destination. We will advise you of these charges (if any) before you depart
Travel insurance. We require all participants to have comprehensive travel insurance. A typical policy for one of our tours will cost from $160 upwards, depending on your age, pre-existing medical conditions, the countries you are visiting and the overall length of your trip
Lunches and dinners not specifically mentioned as included in the itinerary
Personal expenses such as laundry and phone calls
Costs associated with any activity mentioned as “optional” in the itinerary, or any suggested free time activity