Andalusia is flamenco, bullfights, fresh seafood, spicy tapas, mountains, the Alhambra, ancient "white" villages, narrow cobblestone streets, balconies and courtyards overflowing with flowers, the Mediterranean Costa del Sol and history. We see this history in beautiful palaces, ancient cathedrals, the paintings of El Greco and Velazquez and the spelendid monuments of Sevilla. We visit the famous Prado Museum and the magnificant Royal Palace in Madrid. In Toledo, the walled capital of Castilla-la Mancha, we tour ancient churches, synagogues and medieval squares. In the history, the art, and the people of Spain we see the combined influences of the Muslim, Jewish and Roman Catholic cultures. In the architectures we see the Moorish from North Africa, the Romanesque and Gothic from France and the Renaissance from Italy, all combined into a distinctly Spanish style.
Your Tour Itinerary:
Arriving at the Madrid Airport, we drive to the enchanting city of Toledo, where we stay in a former archbishop’s palace turned elegant hotel. After some free time to relax or explore, we enjoy a dinner of mouth-watering Andalusian cuisine.
Overnight: Toledo | Meals: D
Today we take a day trip to Madrid. Our first stop is a visit to the Palacio Real, a monumental Royal Palace consisting of some 2,000 rooms overflowing with art treasures and antiques. Our next stop is El Prado Museum, unquestionably one of the finest art museums in the world. We have time to explore and try some tapas before returning to Toledo for dinner.
Overnight: Toledo | Meals: B, D
With our expert local historian and guide, we visit Toledo’s most interesting sites: the cathedral, the narrow and winding streets, ancient churches, medieval houses and palaces. In the 16th century the painter El Greco came to live in Toledo and we can visit his home. We have free time and can choose one of Toledo’s enticing restaurants for dinner.
Overnight: Toledo | Meals: B
We take a scenic drive through the Sierra Nevada Mountains to spend the next two nights in a beautiful Parador hotel on a hillside above the fascinating old city of Córdoba. The Mezquita Mosque-Cathedral will take your breath away, as will the magnificent gardens of the royal palace (Alcázar). The Mezquita is a unique blend of Moorish and Christian architecture, begun by the Muslims in 780 and enlarged over the centuries by both faiths to its present state, containing 850 majestic columns of colored stone, that create a dazzling visual effect. We have time to wander through the Judería (Old Jewish Quarter and the heart of Córdoba) with its narrow streets, picturesque courtyards (patios) and bright flowers. Silversmiths create fine jewelry in their workshops, a tradition in the heart of the city. A walk around this area gives the sensation that little has changed since the 10th century when this was considered one of the greatest cities in the Western world.
Overnight: Córdoba | Meals: B, D (Day 4); B, D (Day 5)
We take a short drive to another spectacular wonder, the Alhambra of Granada. Set high on a hill, this remarkable fortress is brimming with palaces and gardens dating from the 14th to the 16th centuries, many containing mosaics, sculptures, towers, and architectural masterpieces of unspeakable grandeur. From Granada we continue our drive south to the Costa del Sol. This beautiful coast is punctuated by the ruins of Moorish towers that were built to defend the locals from Barbary pirates. We then settle into our seaside hotel in Nerja, where we stay for two nights.
Overnight: Nerja | Meals: B, D
After a relaxing morning by the seashore we take an excursion into the mountains to explore the picturesque village of Frigiliana. After lunch we tour the magnificent Nerja caves with 20,000-year-old prehistoric wall paintings. Tonight we can try some fresh local seafood and then perhaps a bit of flamenco dancing!
Overnight: Nerja | Meals: B
We leave Nerja to take a beautiful drive along the Mediterranean Costa del Sol—the Sun Coast—and then turn north for an exciting drive high into the mountains. We stop in the striking hilltop town of Ronda for lunch. As we drive down from the mountains, we stop in Jerez de la Frontera, famous as the capital of sherry production and where sherry (jerez) was invented. After a bodega tour and sherry tasting, we continue on to the beautiful city of Sevilla. Our lovely hotel for three nights is in the Santa Cruz neighborhood, in the heart of this lively, friendly city of sidewalk cafés, monuments, parks, and of course, flamenco.
Overnight: Sevilla | Meals: B, D
One of the highlights of our visit to Seville is an entertaining Andalusian cooking class. Fun, informative and, of course, delicious—we feast on the fruits of our labor. In the evening we enjoy a traditional flamenco spectacle and tap our way back to our hotel.
Overnight: Sevilla | Meals: B, D (dinner mid-day)
From our hotel’s ideal location we can walk to many wonderful sights with our local guide. We visit the famous Seville cathedral, the largest in Europe, where we see the majestic tomb of Christopher Columbus; the Plaza de España with its stunning azulejo tiled bridges; the magnificent royal palace with its gorgeous gardens, statues and fountains; beautiful hidden streets in the old city; and of course a tapas bar or two.
Overnight: Sevilla | Meals: B
Today we drive north into the rugged region of Extremadura. In the ancient Roman city of Mérida we see the spectacular Roman theatre and amphitheatre. We soon arrive in Cáceres, where we will stay the next two nights. Cáceres has a unique blend of Roman, Islamic, Northern Gothic and Italian Renaissance styles and in 1986 earned the distinction of being named a UNESCO World Heritage City. We have time to explore before dinner together in the evening.
Overnight: Cáceres | Meals: B, D
Cáceres has a remarkable historical center dating back several centuries. Trujillo, just to the east, is built on a granite ledge of a hillside and is known for being the birthplace of several conquistadors, most notably Francisco Pisarro, conqueror of Peru. We enjoy a guided walking tour of Cáceres, followed by an excursion to Trujillo. We return to Cáceres for a free evening.
Overnight: Cáceres | Meals: B
Heading back east toward Madrid, we visit the Royal Site of San Lorenzo of El Escorial. This magnificent 16th century World Heritage Site is a beautiful complex including a majestic basilica, an enormous royal palace, the burial place of Spanish kings, and a world famous art gallery with paintings by El Greco, Velazquez, Titian, Tintoretto, Hieronymous Bosch, and many other great Renaissance masters. At the end of the day we check into our hotel in the charming old center of Madrid. Tonight we enjoy a grand farewell dinner.
Overnight: Madrid | Meals: B, D
In the morning we depart for the Madrid airport.
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