This journey takes us through the fascinating regions of Northern Spain via Porto to Lisbon, centre of the Portuguese Age of Discovery. We marvel at the architecture of Bilbao and sample world-class wine in Rioja, then explore Spain’s medieval history in Castilla and León and the Asturias regions, including the charming city of Oviedo. In lush Galicia we witness the devotion of medieval pilgrims on the Camino Francés and the spectacular cathedral at Santiago de Compostela. We then travel to Lisbon via Porto and the Duoro Valley, where we explore a city of outstanding art collections, spectacular monuments and vibrant neighbourhoods.
An architectural tradition that extends from Visigothic, Gothic and Romanesque cathedrals to striking contemporary structures
Medieval pilgrimage along the Camino to Santiago de Compostela
The celebrated regional food of Spain’s north, the fine wines of the Rioja and Rías Baixas regions and the port wine of Porto
A varied landscape of turquoise coastlines, lush river valleys and rugged interiors
The legacy of explorers in the many layers of history and art in Lisbon
Frank Gehry’s extraordinary design at the Guggenheim in Bilbao
Wine-tasting at the avant-garde Bodega Ysios winery in the Rioja
The exquisite Romanesque and Gothic churches, cathedrals and monasteries in and around Burgos, León and Oviedo
A mountain walk and lunch in the clear air of the majestic Picos de Europa in Asturias
Fine tapas in San Sebastián, and Spain’s most renowned seafood restaurant in Galicia
An exceptional range of museums and galleries in Lisbon
A full day in Sintra exploring exquisite palaces decorated with tiles
Days 1–3: In Bilbao, visit the Guggenheim, the fine arts museum and San Sebastián.
Days 4–5: Explore the Rioja wine region, including Burgos cathedral, Romanesque monasteries and Visigothic churches.
Days 6–7: Follow the Pilgrims’ Way to León and enjoy a stay at an iconic parador.
Days 8–10: Visit the Romanesque churches in Oviedo, take a market tour and taste some of the local cider.
Days 11–13: Visit Santiago de Compostela, and enjoy seafood and wine in Rías Baixas.
Days 14–20: Travel to Portugal and enjoy a night in Porto followed by five nights in vibrant Lisbon.
A limited number of places remain on this tour and as such, internet bookings are not taken. Please contact our travel consultant listed above if you wish to make a booking.
Emirates flies to Barcelona, and home from Lisbon. A connecting flight is necessary from Barcelona to Bilbao with Vueling Airlines. Contact us for competitive quotes and bookings.
Included meals are shown with the symbols B, L and D.
Friday April 27: Bilbao
Our tour starts in Bilbao today. We recommend taking an early evening flight from Barcelona to Bilbao with Vueling airlines which connects with flights arriving from Australia. The group airport transfer will coincide with this flight. If you wish to arrive prior to the tour to recover from jetlag, we recommend a few nights in Barcelona. After settling in to our hotel just across from the Guggenheim, we meet for a welcome drink in hotel reception and then walk to dinner at a local restaurant. Overnight Bilbao (B, D)
Saturday April 28: Guggenheim and Casco Viejo
Today we explore the striking Guggenheim museum by Frank Gehry. In 1991 the Basque government commissioned Gehry to build a work to enliven Bilbao’s decrepit port area and the result was a work that has been celebrated by critics and the general public alike. Mid-afternoon your tour leader will lead a walking tour along the Nervión river to the Casco Viejo (old heart of the city) via the famous Calatrava bridge. Overnight Bilbao (B)
Sunday April 29: San Sebastián
This morning we visit Bilbao’s renowned Museum of Fine Arts before an excursion by coach to discover the picturesque resort town of San Sebastián. We sample some of the famed local tapas before exploring the centre on foot with a local guide. After some free time to walk along the waterfront of the famed Bahia de la Concha, we join our coach trip back to Bilbao admiring the sculpture of Eduardo Chillida on the way. Overnight Bilbao (B, L)
Monday April 30: La Rioja – To Castilla-Leon
Departing the Basque country, we head by coach to the wine growing region of La Rioja. We stop in Laguardia for coffee, a medieval walled city perched on a rocky outcrop and have time to explore here before a visit to the contemporary architect Santiago Calatrava’s extraordinary Bodega Ysios winery. This impressive building, with its Gaudí inspired roof and superb mountain backdrop, is an excellent location for our first wine tasting. Lunch will be a typical bodega (winery) lunch at a smaller more intimate family owned vineyard. We arrive at Burgos in the late afternoon, our destination for the next two nights. Overnight Burgos (B, L)
Tuesday May 1: Explore Burgos
Today is a public holiday in Spain and Burgos has a festive atmosphere. We set off on foot to explore the historic centre of a city at the heart of Spain’s history and a principle crossroads of the Camino de Santiago. Amongst other sites we pause outside the Casa del Cordόn, where Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castille, the ‘Catholic Monarchs’, met with Colombus and endorsed his voyages to the New World, and the world heritage Gothic cathedral, built on the pilgrim’s route and inspired by the cathedrals of Paris and Reims. In the afternoon, we suggest you make a reservation to enjoy one of the many fine restaurants and watch the locals at play. You might like to sample the hearty local specialty, “Lechazo”, suckling lamb. In the early evening, we gather for a talk in the hotel. Overnight Burgos. (B)
Wednesday May 2: Pilgrim Route and Roman Mosaics
Departing Burgos for Leόn we witness sections of the Camino from our coach, passing pilgrims with their iconic staffs and scallop shells tied to their packs. We pause at Frόmista to admire its eleventh century Romanesque church with fine carved capitals, built for the devotion of passing pilgrims. Closer to León, we stop at the Roman Villa of Olmeda where we can view superb Roman mosaics; hidden for centuries under the rural landscape. On arriving at our hotel, the iconic landmark of the Parador de León and our base for the next two nights, we have time to explore its museum before dinner at Los Delirios, an experimental and highly regarded local restaurant. Overnight Leόn (B, D)
Thursday May 3: Explore Leon
Today we enjoy a walking tour of the well preserved medieval centre of Leόn. Our first stop will be the glorious French-style Gothic cathedral with its fine carvings and huge rose windows. Widely considered the finest Gothic building in Spain, it has earned its nickname, the ‘House of Light’. We also stop at the Pantheon of San Isodoro to relish some of the best-preserved Romanesque murals in Spain. After lunch- we suggest tapas in the Barrio Húmedo, or ‘wet quarter’- there is free time to further explore the town: either the Archaeological museum or the Museum of Contemporary Art. Overnight Leόn (B)
Friday May 4: To Asturias
Today we head over the mountains to the enchanting city of Oviedo, our destination for the next three nights. After a break for lunch, we explore the old town on foot, pausing to watch the peacocks roaming the Campo de San Francisco, and to delight in the well-tended parks and squares lined with Baroque palaces. We enjoy an early evening meal in the Bulevar de la Sidra, ‘cider boulevard’, a superb place to people watch and marvel at the waiters pouring this local speciality, in the traditional way – from a great height. Overnight Oviedo (B, D)
Saturday May 5: The Picos de Europa
For some of Spain’s finest mountain scenery we take a day trip to the dramatic Picos de Europa, one of Spain’s most visited National Parks. We take the spectacular drive up to the Lakes of Covodonga and enjoy a rustic lunch in a mountain refuge. There is the option of a short walk around the lakes in the company of a local guide (good walking shoes required as the terrain is sometimes uneven). Overnight Oviedo (B, L)
Sunday May 6: Relax in Oviedo
The morning is set aside to survey the beautiful ninth century ‘pre-Romanesque’ architecture of the churches on the outskirts of Oviedo, many of which have been granted UNESCO world heritage. Set at the foot of the surrounding mountains the countryside sets off their simplicity and austere design. The afternoon is free to relax before we meet for a talk and an aperitif in the hotel. Overnight Oviedo (B)
Monday May 7: Into Galicia
We leave the hotel early today to drive the last leg of the Camino route to Santiago de Compostela. En route we visit Castro de Viladonga, an excavated Celtic village over 1500 years old, with an interesting museum attached. We stop for lunch in Lugo, the only city in the world still surrounded by fully intact Roman walls and work up an appetite by walking the fortifications – over 2 kilometres of them if you wish to do the full circuit. On arrival in Santiago we check into our historic hotel, just off the main square. Tonight, we enjoy fine tapas at Abastos 2.0, a cutting-edge extension of the local market which uses excellent regional produce. Overnight Santiago (B, D)
Tuesday May 8: Santiago de Compostela
Today we explore the beautiful urban area of Santiago de Compostela and witness the emotion of the pilgrims arriving at the cathedral after a journey of over 800 kilometres. The Portico de la Gloria, the main facade, has carvings of 200 figures referring to the Apocalypse, and St James welcomes the pilgrims to their final destination. In the afternoon, there is the option of a leisurely walk along a pretty section of the Camino just outside Santiago. Overnight Santiago (B)
Wednesday May 9: The Atlantic Coast
On our last full day in Spain we take an excursion to the beautiful coastline of the Rias Baixas (low estuaries), an area highly renowned for its albariño wine and seafood. We enjoy a wine tasting at the stately home of Pazo de Rubianes, and a walk through their camellia gardens before a leisurely lunch at the excellent seafood restaurant D’Bertos. After lunch, we take a stroll along the coast to view the mussel platform farms, grouped into small cooperatives, before returning to our hotel. Overnight Santiago (B, L)
Thursday May 10: Into Portugal
Departing Galicia, we head south into Portugal and stop at Porto for the night, a world heritage listed site and nicknamed the ‘City of Bridges’. We take a short cruise along the Douro River and stop for a port tasting at the prestigious Ferreira cellars. Dinner tonight is at a popular restaurant close to our hotel. Overnight Porto (B,D)
Friday May 11: Porto
This morning we do a walking tour of the interior of Porto away from the river, stopping at the rail station with its vast tile mosaics and looking into the exquisite Lello bookshop – thought to have been the inspiration for part of the Harry Potter books. Leaving in the early afternoon for Lisbon we check into our hotel and eat in a nearby restaurant. Overnight Lisbon (B, D)
Saturday May 12: Belém
This morning we pay homage to the Golden Age of Discovery and explore the bairro (borough) of Belém. Our touring commences at Belém Tower, a 16th century fortification commissioned by King John II at the mouth of the Tagus River and which formed a vital part of Lisbon’s defences. We continue up the river to the Discovery Monument, celebrating the location where explorers departed to the Far East to open up important trade routes. Nearby, is the Jerónimos Monastery with its superb Manueline cloisters, where seafarers came to pray before leaving or entering port. After free time for lunch we visit the Berardo Collection Museum which houses an extraordinary collection of abstract, surrealist and pop art amassed by Portuguese billionaire, José Berardo. In the early evening, there is a talk in the hotel on the history of Portugese decorative tiles, or azulejos. Overnight Lisbon (B)
Sunday May 13: Lapa
Our first visit today is to one of Europe’s great unsung treasure houses, the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, a fine private art collection featuring works by Rubens, Rembrandt, Monet, Van Dyke and Renoir. This is followed by an excursion to the Tile Museum to view its exquisite collection of azulejos, dating from the 15th century. The museum is housed in the monastic buildings of the Madre de Deus Convent whose interiors are amongst the most magnificent in the city. We finish the day with a performance of Fado in a local restaurant, a Portuguese musical genre characterized by its mournful tunes and lyrics. Overnight Lisbon (B, D)
Monday May 14: Alfama
We take an iconic yellow tram up to Alfama to view the Castle of São Jorge and to enjoy its outstanding views over the city. The citadel dates from the 6th century when it was fortified by the Romans but later served as a Moorish royal residence until captured by Portugal’s first king, Alfonso Henriques in 1147. From here we meander down through the labyrinthine Moorish bairro of Alfama, a truly emblematic part of the city. Alfama was largely spared in the earthquake of 1755 and is still a maze of narrow streets and steep steps, flower-laden iron balconies and small squares. Before pausing for free time, we visit the Núcleo Arqueológico, an extraordinary archeological site with remains dating from the Iron Age, hidden under a modern-day bank. Overnight Lisbon (B)
Tuesday May 15: Sintra
Sintra is a unique combination of natural mountain beauty and fairytale palaces. On our full day trip, we first visit the Palacio de los Marqueses, followed by the National Palace of Sintra. The National Palace is easily distinguished by its two large conical chimneys, while the rest of the building consists of manueline, gothic and moorish architectural styles. Inside, a series of interconnecting courtyards, galleries and corridors join a cohesive set of rooms many decorated with magnificent azulejos. We enjoy a farewell lunch in Sintra at the Palacio Seteais before our final visit to the Convent of the Capuchos. Seeming to emerge from the surrounding woodland the Franciscan convent’s philosophy of austerity and poverty is shown by the architectural and decorative simplicity of the tiny cells carved out of the rock. Overnight Lisbon (B,L)
Wednesday May 16: Depart
The tour concludes this morning after breakfast. Airport transfers are provided for anyone who has booked their flights with Academy Travel. (B)
Dr Jeni Ryde
Has a wide-ranging knowledge of Italian history and cultural traditions. Jeni has a PhD focusing on Tourism, Heritage and Renaissance Studies.
Dr Jeni Ryde is a linguist and art history specialist with over fifteen years experience leading tours to Italy, Spain and Portugal. She is passionate about art, design and architecture both ancient and modern and particularly enjoys how both complement each other. Her special interests are the simplicity of the Romanesque and the breadth and depth of the Renaissance. When she is not traveling with Academy Travel she is able to indulge her interests in drawing, music and teaching the less fortunate.
Jeni holds two undergraduate degrees with majors in Anthropology and French and Interpreting and Translation with NAATI qualifications, two Masters degrees in Italian Linguistics and TESOL and a cross disciplinary PhD in Renaissance Art History, Tourism and Museum Management.
After an early career as an assistant director in film and television both for the ABC and BBC, she worked as an interpreter and translator and then as a senior lecturer at Western Sydney University with a focus on Italian language, history and culture. She was also head of the postgraduate programs in Languages and Interpreting and Translation. Teaching in Adult Education has included several courses in Renaissance Art History, the Italian language and Italian Cinema for U3A and other community organizations. Jeni speaks fluent Italian and Spanish and has an understanding of French and Portuguese.
Jeni first began designing and leading tours to Italy with her own company in 2002 in response to requests from travelers searching for small group tours with specific themes. She joined Academy Travel in 2009 and has since led many tours to various regions of Italy as well as Spain and Portugal.
We asked Jeni, what motivates you as a tour leader?
“I delight in being the catalyst for showing our travelers beautiful places and works of art and especially seeing their reactions – a tear in the eye before a moving painting, a sigh of wonder on entering a beautiful building, a gasp at the beauty of an exquisite landscape. This for me is the great privilege and reward of being an Academy Tour Leader.”
“Many travelers comment on my boundless energy and curiosity for paths less travelled. I like to think that people who travel with me are swept along by my waves of enthusiasm and are inspired to go beyond the obvious to explore and learn with me. I’m known for introducing many little surprises along the way! An added bonus for me is the shared experience of like-minded people enjoying each other’s company while traveling together.”
What is included in the tour price? 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 public transport is 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
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? Open-age 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
Costs involved in obtaining visas for countries visited, where required
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
You will be asked to sign an acknowledgement of these conditions when you book a place on a tour.
A deposit of $500 per person is required to confirm your booking on a tour. Final payment of the tour fee, insurance and any additional travel will be due 60 days before departure.
If you decide to cancel your booking the following charges apply:
More than 60 days before departure: $500*
60-45 days before tour start: 25% of total amount due
44-15 days before tour start: 75% of total amount due
14 days or less before departure: 100% of total amount due
*This amount may be credited to another Academy Travel tour within 12 months of the original tour you booked.
Unused Portions of the tour
We regret that refunds will not be given for any unused portions of the tour, such as meals, entry fees, accommodation, flights or transfers.
Academy Travel requires all participants to obtain comprehensive travel insurance. We offer a comprehensive policy with a reputable insurer if required.
Passport and Visa
A valid passport is required for all international travel. If you do not hold an Australian passport you may require a re-entry permit. Some countries require a visa to be issued before you depart Australia. We will advise you of all passport and visa requirements, but it is your responsibility to ensure that you meet passport and visa requirements before you depart.
Will the tour price change?
If the number of participants in a tour is significantly less than budgeted, or if there is a significant change in exchange rates Academy Travel reserves the right to amend the advertised price. If this occurs you will be given the option of cancelling your booking and obtaining a full refund. If an Academy Travel tour is forced to cancel you will get a full refund of all monies paid.
Will the itinerary change?
Occasionally circumstances beyond the control of Academy Travel make it necessary to change airline, hotel or to make slight amendments to daily itineraries. We will inform you of any changes as soon as they occur.
Full and final payment for the tour, airfare travel, insurance and any additional travel you book is due 60 days before departure. Payment may be made by bank deposit, cheque, cash or credit card. Please note there is a surcharge for payments made by credit card.
Academy Travel reserves the right to decline the booking or terminate the holiday of any traveller.