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Top Trip Memories

  • Viewing Antonio Gaudi’s fanciful and enormously ambitious church of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, still a work in progress almost 90 years after the architect’s death.
  • Swimming in the warm waters of the Mediterranean off one of Spain’s alluring islands of Mallorca, Ibiza or Formentera.
  • Staring, amazed, at the detailed tile work in Granada’s 14th-century Moorish palace, the Alhambra.
  • Staying in a parador, one of the government inns converted from former castles, monasteries, and other atmospheric buildings.
  • Making the rounds of the tapas bars in Madrid, downing a complimentary olive there, a slice of roasted potato there, and perhaps splurging on a grilled prawn or two.
  • Throwing tomatoes at strangers in Valencia’s famous La Tomatina, a 40,000-person tomato fight held each August.
  • Admiring the Old Masters in Madrid’s Prado Museum and Picasso’s masterwork Guernica in the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia.
  • Taking in a flamenco show at a club in Seville where you know the dancing is authentic.
  • Joining the pre-dinner crowds along Las Ramblas in Barcelona as they enjoy their evening paseo, while passing chic sidewalk cafes and lively street entertainers.
  • Marveling at the formal gardens and fountains in Seville’s Royal Alcazar Palace.
  • Spending an art-filled day in Toledo, home of the painter El Greco and a medieval masterpiece of a city.
  • Walking at least part of the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain, an ages-old, now newly popular pilgrimage route.
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Tour Tips

  • Don’t expect to absorb all of Spain in one trip -- it’s larger than California and even more diverse.
  • Consider taking a themed tour of Spain -- revolving around food, walking, or art and architecture.
  • If you’re a lover of great art and architecture, book a tour that includes as many of these cities as possible: Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, Toledo, Granada, and Seville.
  • If you’re a sun-worshipper, book a tour to southern Spain that includes some beach time.
  • If you’re a food lover, book a culinary tour to Barcelona and the Basque Country.
  • Taking a river cruise on the Guadalquivir through Andalusia is an often overlooked -- and very pleasant -- way to see southern Spain.
  • Booking a tour along the Camino de Santiago ensures you’ll find a place to stay every night and that you’ll have company -- and support, if needed -- along this well trammeled route.
  • The northern stretches of Spain in the Pyrenees are far less traveled but extremely scenic and greener and cooler than farther south.
  • If you’re looking for picture-postcard scenery that will leave you gasping, book a tour that includes the Andalusian town of Ronda, built on the edge of a deep chasm.
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Spain Travel Reviews & Ratings

4.6 out of 5

97%

recommend

482 Reviews

  • Excellent 344
  • Great 112
  • Average 20
  • Disappointing 5
  • Terrible 1

Rating Details

  • Value
    4.6
  • Guide
    4.7
  • Activities
    4.6
  • Lodging
    4.6
  • Transportation
    4.6
  • Meals
    4.6

Tour Reviews

Great trip Irma was Fabulous!

Fantastic Morocco and Spain & Portugal

5.0
December 2016
Travel Talk
Recommend: Yes
Would recommend finding hotels with pools like Granada especially during summer. Also would prefer to spend 1 night in Lagos and 1 less night in Seville.

Great COSMOS value

Spain, Portugal & Morocco

4.0
November 2016
Travel Talk
Recommend: Yes
I am a budget solo female traveler. I have traveled with COSMOS for about 20 years in the past, all over Europe, Switzerland, Turkey, etc. The best thing is that I never have to pay extra for single supplement when I room with someone. If Cosmos can not find a room mate for you, you end up having the whole room. Because of this feature, I was able to travel everywhere by my self with reasonable price. Cosmos always provides great value for the bucks. I would do it again. I highly recommend to you all.
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Sierra de Aitana

Sierra de Aitana Trek

4.0
November 2016
Travel Talk
Recommend: Yes
A memorable trip based in a perfect location for both trekking & leisure time.
The walks are lengthy but well planned to made more manageable with long gradual ascents/descents.
A basic hotel but with friendly staff & excellent food fuelling you for the long days ahead!
It does have a pool for warmer days (larger than a plunge pool as described in the particulars).
Summiting Puig Campana on the final day

An excellent guide very experienced & good company. His brother also joined us who enjoys sharing mountain survival skills & detailed local knowledge.
He creates the best sandwiches for lunch I have ever seen! Don't expect to lose weight!
I was disappointed at not summiting Aitana & did feel he was overly cautious given low cloud/mist. It felt as if he thought that if there was to be no view then it wasn't worth it. The cloud & mist was negligible & we could easily have managed the summit without any significant risk.

Do some pre-investigation & planning for the day off. The local coastal town is very limited & the alternative beach is very nice but again very quiet. Obviously it depends very much what you are looking for.

Despite the comments I really enjoyed the trip. Good organisation, the group all competent in the mountains which meant we all worked well together as a group.
Thinking where to go next!

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A Great Week in the Sierra de Aitana

Sierra de Aitana Trek

5.0
November 2016
Travel Talk
Recommend: Yes
Five excellent guided walks in the mountains surrounding our accommodation at El Trestellador. Each day was very enjoyable and the walks took approximately 6 hours. It was extremely hot for October and the mountains have little shade, so plenty of water had to be carried. The packed lunch provided was superb and enjoyed on the peaks each day. Returning to El Trestellador for a cold beer was equally enjoyable.
I loved the accommodation. It was simple, very clean and our hosts were so friendly. The food provided each night was exceptional and more than enough for the largest appetite.

Jose is a nice guy with a passion for the Sierra de Aitana. He knows everything about the area and makes the walks interesting. He also is responsible for the excellent sandwiches.

This is not an easy week and deserves the Activity level 4

Most of my treks have not been based at one centre. I thoroughly enjoyed having a base to return to and not having to unpack a rucksack everyday.
On our free day a group of us went to the beach at Altea which was very enjoyable.

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First Class Walking snd Eating

Sierra de Aitana Trek

5.0
November 2016
Travel Talk
Recommend: Yes
Marvellous walking but needing good fitness and some ability to walk on difficult rock ascents and descents. A beautiful area, great guides in Jose and Jaime, very friendly and comfortable hotel and excellent food.
Standing on top of Puig Campana after a long and in places complex ascent and seeing all the other places we had been to in the week.

Jose and Jaime were both excellent. Very safety conscious and very experienced and full of interesting information about the area. Exodus has some excellent local leaders and these two are among the best.

This is more demanding than the Picos challenging week. Partly due to the length of walks and partly due to the more technical sections. There is very little height exposure and what there is not precipitous. Poles are useful, even to a non pole user like me. It does rain and can be very wet so you must bring waterproof bottoms and an umbrella or poncho are useful as it is also hot (Sept/Oct). They advise boots and those who did not use them did have a few problems. You can get away without using them but be prepared for blisters/ sore feet.

A really satisfying week of walking helped by other guests who were good walkers. This holiday is not for the not so strong walker but there are options for missing bits out or avoiding too many climbs but you will have to pay for the taxi which the leaders will arrange.

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Top Tour Operators and Travel Companies


Classic Itineraries

Classic Spain in 1 Week

Spain in one week will introduce you to the vibrancy of the country and leave you wanting more. You’ll get a taste of tapas, art, and countryside. Most 1 Week itineraries visit the main attractions through Southern Spain:

Day 1-2, Madrid: Explore the rich art history here though the Paseo del Arte, Museo Reina Sofia where works by Dali and Picasso live, and Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Other highlights include the Real Jardin Botanico and the Plaza Mayor.

Day 3, Seville: Alcazar, the world’s largest gothic cathedral, Barrio Santa Cruz, Maria Luisa Park

Day 4, Cordoba to Granada: Explore a place where the extensive Moorish history of Spain comes to light in Cordoba a visit to The Mezquita. Continue on to Granada through beautiful Spanish countryside.

Day 5, Granada: Learn how to Flamenco dance, visit the historical quarter in the Albaicin, enjoy a shopping day among its ancient streets.

Day 6, Valencia: Take a long drive to get to Valencia, the “Spanish gateway to the Mediterranean”. Go on a guided tour of Valencia Cathedral, where the supposed Holy Grail sits. Take a free day to wander around this bustling city with beautiful beaches and busy markets.

Day 7-8, Barcelona: End your trip with a few days in Barcelona. Enjoy world famous Catalan cuisine, explore the rich art history of Spain at the National Art Museum of Catalonia, and take in incredible Gaudi architecture like the La Sagrada Familia cathedral. Shop like a local at Santa Catarina Market.

Trips that follow this itinerary:

Discover Moorish Spain with G Adventures - 8 Days, premium trip

Highlights of Spain with Intrepid - 8 Days, basic trip

Classical Spain Tour with Riviera Travel - 7 Days, premium trip

Or see All Spain in 1 Week Trips

Spain in 2 Weeks

With two weeks, you can explore much of Spain in more depth, such as a visit to wine country, or a stay along the seaside in the North.

Day 1-2, Madrid: Explore the rich art history here though the Paseo del Arte, Museo Reina Sofia where works by Dali and Picasso live, and Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Other highlights include the Real Jardin Botanico and the Plaza Mayor.

Day 3-4, San Sebastion & La Rioja: On your way to the seaside paradise of San Sebastion, stop in the La Rioja wine country to do some tasting.

Day 5, Pamplona: See the famous street where the running of the bulls takes place.

Day 6-8, Barcelona: Enjoy world famous Catalan cuisine, explore the rich art history of Spain at the National Art Museum of Catalonia, and take in incredible Gaudi architecture like the La Sagrada Familia cathedral. Shop like a local at Santa Catarina Market.

Day 9, Valencia: Take in the “Spanish gateway to the Mediterranean”. Go on a guided tour of Valencia Cathedral, where the supposed Holy Grail sits.

Day 10, Granada to Cordoba: In Granada, see the spectacular Alhambra Palace, and learn of the cities strong Moorish heritage. Continue on to Cordoba, where much Moorish history also lies, and see The Mezquita (Great Mosque).

Day 11-13, Seville with Gibraltar excursion: Take a walking tour of Seville to see the Seville Cathedral, Giralda Tower, and Plaza de España. Take a full day to visit British territory Gibraltar, and see the famous “Rock of Gibraltar.”

IMPORTANT NOTE: to visiting Gibraltar you may need additional visa information, and don’t forget your passport!

Day 14, Madrid: End your tour back in Madrid.

Trips that follow this itinerary:

The Best of Spain with SmarTours - 12 Days, premium trip

The Best of Spain with Intrepid - 15 Days, value trip

Best of Spain with Trafalgar - 15 Days, premium trip

Or see All Spain in Two Weeks Tours

Spain & Morocco Tour

Spain and Morocco are intrinsically linked, sharing much history due to their close proximity. A history tour will highlight how these two countries have influenced each other through culture, food, and architecture.

Day 1-3, Seville: Begin in Seville, the capital of the Andalucia region, which was under Moorish rule from the 8th-15th centuries. See Maria Luisa Park, Seville Cathedral, and Giralda Tower.

Day 4, Cordoba: A city that has maintained a lot of its Moorish heritage, including the impressive Mezquita (Great Mosque). Take a walking tour to see the Jewish quarter and learn about the city’s history.

Day 5, Granada: see the spectacular Alhambra Palace and visit a traditional tea house in the 'Albaicin' quarter.

Day 6, Ronda: In this, one of Spain’s oldest towns, enjoy spectacular views on a walking tour of the city. Feast on a local tapas meal.

Day 7, Strait of Gibraltar crossing and Tangier: Take the ferry from Spain to Morocco and enjoy a tour of historic Tangier before continuing to Fez for a few days.

Day 8, Fes: Enjoy the traditional old feel of this ancient city as you wind your way through the busy streets. Visit Funduk Nejjarine a restored 18th century inn, hear the call to prayer, and dine on a traditional Moroccan meal.

Day 9, Rabat: Explore ancient ruins in Morocco’s capital, see Hassan Mosque, Kasbah des Oudaias, and the royal palace.

Day 10, Casablanca: In the city made famous by cinema, soak in the history on a walking tour. See the Mosque of Hassan II, one of the only religious sites open to non-Muslims. If you look for Rick’s bar though, you’ll be disappointed.

Day 11-12, Marrakech: Explore the markets and spice shops. Visit the Koutoubia Mosque and the ruins of Palais Badi.

Trips that follow this itinerary:

Madrid to Marrakech with Intrepid - 15 Days, value trip

Moorish Spain to Marrakech with Explore - 13 Days, value trip

Spain and Morocco: Shared Histories, Complementary Cultures with Road Scholar - 17 Days, value trip

Or see All Spain and Morocco Tours

Spain Trips & Tour Advice

Spain -- the tempestuous land of Don Juan and Don Quixote, Carmen and Figaro, bullfighting and flamenco -- once ruled an empire that stretched across the Americas and points beyond. By the 20th century it had fallen into decline, merely another poor nation in southern Europe. Now, in the midst of a cultural renaissance, Spain is much like a theme park devoted to the good life -- a sensuous feast of fun, food, and fine art and architecture.

Start with the beaches, as many visitors do. (Northern Europeans, who search out sand and sunshine like heat-seeking missiles, have made Spain their holiday central.) The most crowded stretch, the Costa del Sol along the southern Mediterranean, sports highly developed resorts like upscale Marbella and carnival-like Torremolinos, once quiet fishing villages now packed with sunbathers and bar-hoppers. The Mediterranean island of Ibiza is another incredible party scene, though with better beaches; the smaller island of Formentera is quieter.

Art and Architecture

In Spain, you can spend hours or days with Spanish masters like Velasquez, El Greco, Goya, Dali, and Picasso in Madrid’s Prado and other top museums. Architecture? Frank Gehry’s sensational Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao is one of the most talked-about buildings in Europe. You can even view ancient Roman ruins such as the two-millennia-old aqueduct in Segovia.

The Spanish have turned eating into an art form, not so much with the classical artistry of the French as with the playful palette of Picasso, a native Spaniard. Dining often begins by making the rounds of tapas bars -- grazing on small platefuls of delicacies washed down with glasses of local wine or sherry. It continues with multi-course meals that may run on till midnight. Seafood is often the centerpiece, sometimes topping giant platters of paella, the saffron-tinged rice dish that’s almost synonymous with Spanish cuisine.

The Backdrop

All of these cultural, culinary and recreational riches are set against a scenic backdrop as varied as any in Europe. To the east and parts of the west, the Mediterranean and Atlantic coastlines frame hundreds of miles of blue sea. To the north, the green and forested Pyrenees rise to form a mountainous border with France. In central Spain, arid brown valleys and high plateaus add dramatic contours to the landscape. And in the far south, the Andalusian countryside is reminiscent of Spain’s onetime New World outpost, southern California. Each region is wildly beautiful in its own way.

The Spanish people enhance it all with their exuberant approach to life, much of it played out on the public stage. In cities and villages across the country, they emerge to see and be seen on their evening paseos, strolling often arm-in-arm with family or friends, typically dressed to be admired.

Revelry and Recovery

The narrow streets of Barcelona’s old Gothic Quarter, the now-chic antiquity of Madrid’s Puerta del Sol area, and the winding medieval alleyways of Seville’s Barrio Santa Cruz and Granada’s Sacromonte (gypsy) district are often packed far into the night with diners and revelers who see daybreak not as the start of a new day but the end of the old. The country’s many fiestas rachet up the festive mood even higher. July’s annual Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, March’s Las Fallas de San Jose in Valencia, and Easter’s Feria in Seville, among many others, all provide spectacular pageantry.

But when do they sleep? A partial answer rhymes with fiesta: siesta, an afternoon tradition that is struggling to survive the economic pressures of modernization. Tour leaders know to plan sightseeing and shopping trips in the mornings or late afternoons since many museums, stores and other attractions often close for two or three hours at midday. Take a cue from the Spanish: enjoy a leisurely lunch and rest up during the hottest part of the day.

Key Sights

All roads lead to and from stylish Madrid, the centrally located Spanish capital, which combines world-class art museums like the Prado with alluring public parks and nightlife. Just south of Madrid lies the photogenic and beautifully preserved medieval city of Toledo, immortalized by the artist El Greco.

Much farther south, Andalusia is a sunny, Moorish-influenced land that spawned flamenco and forms many people’s mental image of Spain. Seville is a maze of courtyards, plazas, bars and restaurants, while Granada is home to the Alhambra, an ornately tiled 14th-century Moorish palace. Cordoba’s 1,100-year-old Great Mosque, with its hundreds of colorfully striped columns and archways, is so vast that an entire Roman Catholic cathedral (added later) seems almost lost within it.

Barcelona, in the northeast, is the epicenter of the Spanish revival. The old Gothic Quarter, with its jumble of twisting streets, opens onto Las Ramblas, one of the world’s great promenades, and Gaudi’s surreal architectural legacy is everywhere. To its south, vibrant Valencia, birthplace of paella and the world’s biggest tomato fight, is often overlooked -- mbut shouldn’t be.

Still a good value

While not the dirt cheap destination of old, Spain is still a good value for Europe -- especially if you consider all that it has to offer. If you haven’t visited Spain since the sleepy 1970s, you’re in for a huge surprise.

Stride can help you find the tour that best represents what you most want from your Spanish vacation -- whether it’s a tour of the classic sights, a multi-week trek along northern Spain’s Camino de Santiago, a riverboat cruise along the Guadalquivir River in Andalusia, or perhaps a culinary tour where you can discover the secrets of making a great paella.

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Aaron Fung
 
 

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